The cross-culturisation of reggae

THE historic Liberty Hall (founded by Marcus Garvey) in downtown Kingston, was last Thursday the venue for a panel discussion on the global impact of reggae music—Basil Walters reports for Jamaica’s Observer.

Inspired by Noël Dernesch and Moritz Springer’s feature documentary Journey to Jah, the forum was held under the theme, ‘Cultural Cross-Currents: European and Jamaican Artistes, Escaping Roots or Extending Consciousness.’

Three artistes — two Europeans, one Jamaican — featured in an engaging discussion guided by Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of West Indies (Mona), Carolyn Cooper.

Alborosie from Italy, Gentleman from Germany and Jamaican Terry Lynn (not to be confused with Terry Linen) were the participants.

The symposium focused on how Alborosie and Gentleman journeyed to Jamaica to experience the country’s culture, and how the Waterhouse-born Terry Lynn, is influenced by European techno music.

Gentleman was born Tilmann Otto in Osnabrück, Germany. His second album, Journey to Jah, was produced by Dean Fraser. He said roots-reggae was his introduction to Jamaican music.

“I never planned to be a reggae singer. I just do it, I don’t know why. I never asked myself that question. I see myself as a vessel and I am just following my inner voice,” said Gentleman.

The son of a Lutheran pastor, Gentleman recalled the first reggae record he heard was Dennis Brown’s Wolf and Lepoards, played by his older brother.

He has been travelling to Jamaica regularly since he was 16-years-old.

Tilmann Otto came to Jamaica from the city of Cologne looking for the records his big brother played in Germany and left with the hip sound of dancehall. He kept his roots attitude, which is still a big part of his music.

Alberto D’Ascola, better known as Alborosie, was raised in Sicily, but has resided in Jamaica for over 15 years.

“To me reggae is Jamaica, that’s why I am here for such a long time,” declared Alborosie in his best patois.

Alborosie started his career with the Italian reggae band National Tickets as a 15-year-old in 1993. He moved to Jamaica in 2001 to get closer to roots music and Rastafari.

“This is not about song, it’s about spirituality. My show is not (just) a show, is a function. Reggae is not just music business, it’s my life. Reggae is my mission,” Alborosie testfied.

Originally a dancehall artiste, Terry Lynn said her switch to electronic music came from a yearning to do something different. She was critical of a popular dancehall trait — recording multiple artistes on the same rhythm.

“Reggae coming through the bloodline from Marcus Garvey, Miss Lou. Mi born and grow up into the music. From Nyahbinghi, Kumina, Revival, going to church, the rhythm lives inside of me,” Lynn noted.

“But we as a people don’t cherish it enough. I am tired of the barbarisation to a beat,” she added. “Having 10 artistes pon one beat, I was like, ‘why should I be doing this’?”

She inquired about different sounds and genres, settling with the electro beat which has a massive following in Europe.

Her 2008 album, Kingstonlogic, had some critics comparing Terry Lynn to Tamil singer M.I.A.

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